The Best Gumbo You've Ever Made

If there is a better meal in a bowl than gumbo, we really don't know what it is. Just think about it: Each bite may deliver shrimp, sausage, rice, okra, pepper, celery onion, a plethora of spices, and more. And a few glorious bites may even have all of those ingredients together. Given the centuries-old tradition of this meal, which is Louisiana's official dish, you may be a bit intimidated by making it yourself — but don't be.

"Gumbo is very easy to make," says chef and recipe developer Erin Johnson of Probably in the Kitchen. "It's really just adding ingredients and stirring." The hardest part, depending on where you live and the time of year, will be finding good enough ingredients. But even that need not be a deterrent, as Johnson says frozen veggies can work well in this recipe. And she has some options for substitutions, too — we'll get to those when we talk ingredients soon.

Now, set aside an hour and a half or so, most of which will involve little more than a bit of stirring (and a lot of sublime aromas), and let's make a scrumptious pot of gumbo.

Gather the ingredients for gumbo

As previously noted, it takes a lot of ingredients to make a great gumbo, but that's all well and good. You'll need butter, all-purpose flour, a yellow onion, a medium bell pepper (chopped), celery ribs (chopped), sliced okra (fresh or frozen), minced garlic, andouille sausage (sliced), cajun seasoning, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, a bay leaf, canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes, chicken broth, shrimp (peeled and deveined), gumbo filé (pronounced "fee-lay"), sliced green onions, and cooked white rice, for serving.

Now, for some flexibility. "You can use any color of bell pepper you'd like here," says Johnson. "Green is traditional, but I prefer yellow or red for color. If you're not an okra fan, feel free to leave out. [And] if you can't find andouille sausage, you can substitute [that for] smoked sausage."

Melt the butter and mix in the flour to make the roux

Now, it's time to make the roux, the most hands-on part of the entire gumbo process. Melt the butter in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, and then add the flour. Next, start to stir constantly, and keep it cooking and moving until the roux reaches a golden brown consistency, which will take approximately ten minutes.

"The roux is the most intimidating part [of the recipe]," says Johnson. Keep stirring, turn the temperature down if the roux starts to boil, and remember that it takes ten minutes to get to golden brown. Patience is your friend!"

Begin adding the ingredients in order

Once the roux reaches that perfect golden brown, add the vegetables to the pot, stir well, and let them cook for five minutes, stirring a few times more.

Next, add in the garlic, andouille sausage, cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Immediately add the bay leaf, can of diced tomatoes, the chicken broth, and stir. Allow the soup to come to a boil, and then reduce things to a low heat — just a gentle simmer is all you need. 

Let your gumbo cook low and slow, stirring occasionally and letting it cook for 45 minutes.

Add the shrimp, and finish up your gumbo

Once the 45 minutes of slow simmering have passed (and the whole house smells amazing), add the shrimp and gumbo filé to the pan, stir well, and allow the pot to simmer an additional ten minutes. "Gumbo filé is used as a thickener," says Johnson. "If you don't have it on hand or can't find it, it can be omitted, just simmer the gumbo for ten to 15 additional minutes before adding the shrimp."

Check to be sure the shrimp have cooked through, then remove the bay leaf and add green onions to garnish. Serve over rice, if desired. Or, do what Johnson does. "I do like it with a piece of cornbread or a slice of crusty bread," she says, and you really won't need anything else on the table, as "gumbo is a hearty dish and with the rice is definitely a meal unto itself."

The Best Gumbo You've Ever Made
4.9 from 46 ratings
This hearty gumbo would pair so well with a piece of cornbread or served over a bed of rice.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
1.08
hours
Servings
5
Servings
bowl of fresh gumbo
Total time: 1.25 hours
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen, sliced okra
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces andouille sausage, sliced into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon gumbo filé
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional Ingredients
  • cooked white rice, for serving
Directions
  1. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, and then add ¼ cup of all-purpose flour to make a roux. Stir constantly, until the roux reaches a golden brown consistency – approximately ten minutes.
  2. Add the vegetables to the roux, and cook for five minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic, andouille sausage, cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the bay leaf, 15-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, and 4 cups of chicken broth, and stir, allowing this to come to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low.
  5. Let the gumbo cook for 45 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  6. Add the shrimp and 1 teaspoon of gumbo filé to the pan, stir well, and allow to simmer an additional ten minutes making sure shrimp cooks through.
  7. Remove the bay leaf and add green onions to garnish.
  8. Serve over rice (if desired), and enjoy.
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